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  • Writer's pictureFallon Clark

Love Your Imperfect Creation

MetaStellar Magazine's Writing Advice of the Week for March 17, 2024

Want the video instead? Watch it on Rumble.


Is it just me, or can you smell spring ideas in the air, too?


The vernal equinox is almost here in my part of the globe, and the petrichor-scented wisps of growth and change drift in the wind. For many, spring brings a host of new ideas, fresh perspectives, and a renewed gusto to go out and do something. To experience life. To plant something. Paint something. Write something.


Mother Earth awakes in spring, and when she awakes, it’s time to create.


SET YOURSELF UP FOR CREATIVE SUCCESS.


Before you run out and buy up all the notebooks and fountain pens in your geographic region, it’s important to give yourself the right tools to create, and the most important tool in your creation toolbox is one you can’t buy: Sleep.


Without good quality sleep, you’ll end up stressing yourself out and sabotaging your own creativity. That’s because our brains don’t operate at their best without sleep, and if you’re working on a story you care about, that story deserves your best.


The article, Sleep: Embracing Your Inner Koala, by Kay DiBianca (Killzoneblog) gives insight into the science of sleep and neuroplasticity, why sleep is crucial for creativity, and some tips to help you get the kind of sleep that will ultimately help you achieve your goals.


When you’re sleeping well, it’s time to direct your newfound creative energy. The Power Of Using Habits Rather Than Results by Daphne Gray-Grant (Publication Coach) talks about one of my favorite topics: Engaging in healthy habits.


Beyond sleep, constructing your writing life through a series of healthy habits helps create a sustainable process that works for you. Nailing those daily habits means you’ll get a dopamine fix from your process rather than the hoped-for or expected result. And I suspect that by focusing on habits, you’ll be much happier in the long term, since you won’t feel the near-constant nagging pull of the instant-gratification monster.


GIVE YOURSELF THE GRACE TO BE IMPERFECT.


The instant-gratification monster can kibosh a marathon creative endeavor, like writing a book, fairly quickly, because long-term projects don’t feed the idiomatic beast — at least, they don’t feed it fast enough to quiet the grumblies.


And if you’ve ever felt those grumblies hit you hard, especially when starting a new story, you may be experiencing the discomfort of writing that crucial opening scene. The Pain Of First Pages by Julie Glover (Writers In The Storm) talks through the catch-22 inherent in writing first pages. Glover shares, “You need to know your characters better to write the first pages well, but you need to write the first pages well to get to know your characters better.”


Really, it’s no wonder the grumblies get so many would-be authors at the start, sink in their creativity staunching teeth, and never let go again. In fact, this particularly hairy monster results in 97 percent of writers abandoning their books before they ever finish writing them.


Those first pages are difficult, and many writers become trapped in a cycle of perfection, convinced that if their first chapter is just right, the rest of the story will reveal itself. That is a lovely dream, but it’s a dream nonetheless.


To stop at scene one and attempt to hammer it into an Adonis that transcends the human definition of beauty is fantastical at best and downright delusional at worst. Many times, I’ve advised writers to avoid revising — even writing — their first scenes or chapters until the rest of the book is written.


So if you’ve written that imperfect first scene, leave it alone, pokey edges and all, and write scene two. Then, write scene three, then four, and . . . you get the picture. Because revising the first scene well means understanding the critical nature of that first scene and how it will ultimately help your reader understand you character’s transformation in the last scene. And really, how can you compare your opening and closing if the closing doesn’t even exist yet?


REMEMBER TO LOVE WHAT YOU WRITE.


And just as I ask authors to let their imperfect scenes and chapters lie, especially until the rest of the story is on paper, I also ask them to tap into the magic behind why they write. I don’t think an author exists today who hasn’t heard the oft-cited storytelling dictate: Kill your darlings.


While there are some very valid reasons to yeet that which does not serve your story, it does no good to yeet that which allows you to love your story. If your finger is hovering over the “delete” key on a section you really love, pause for a moment and read Philip Athans’ article, Don’t Kill Your Darlings (Fantasy Author’s Handbook), which flies in the face of that near-cliche bit of writing advice by asking you to do the opposite.


Athans says, “If you don’t like what you’ve written, if it doesn’t resonate with you, why would you think it would resonate with anyone else? Why would you keep that and throw away what you love? It’s insane to even consider that.” And I agree.


The “darling” that can be deleted without a second thought likely wasn’t really a darling at all. And if you remove all the darlings in your story, why would you desire to continue writing it? Where’s the passion? Where’s the purpose? Where’s the authenticity?


Because your ideal readers want what you have to say, not the watered-down version of what someone else thinks you ought to say.


FRAME WHAT YOU LOVE WELL.


For your authentically penned story to have the best chance of success, it needs to be framed well so your ideal readers can find it. Choosing the right genre or sub-genre is a simple way to introduce story framing. Kendra Broekhuis (Writer’s Digest) suggests Utilizing Magical Realism To Tell A Story, and her article is about understanding the fundamental aspects of the story you are writing or have written and having the right language to communicate it.


While your story may not fit into the magical realism subgenre, there is — no doubt — a genre that will fit your work, one that your ideal readers will understand intuitively, one that will lead them to your book.


And once you’ve led those readers to your book with all its authentic imperfections, make sure your characters are also imperfect . . . ahem, relatable. Make sure your readers understand and can bond with your characters.


Rainey Hall (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) agrees with the principle to Make Your Characters More Relatable and her article is as short and sweet as it is practical. Pobody is nerfect, and your characters shouldn’t be either.


SELL THE HELL OUTTA YOUR WORK.


Easier said than done, of course, but working writers sell their writing. And there are lots of paths to sell books. Some paths are wholly in your control, some are not, and each has its quirks, benefits, and drawbacks.


If you have any desire to work with a publisher, whether a Big Five publisher, an indie-trad pub, or another model, you may want to know how to draw the intrigue of the editor who may greenlight your book for development and production.


Manuscript Academy put out the podcast episode, What Editors Look For: Fresh Takes On Familiar Stories With Harper Editor Sara Schonfeld. The podcast episode talks through those important first pages (yes, those very same painful ones mentioned earlier) and what an exciting book delivers to the hopeful editor or agent receiving it.


But know going into the episode that not every author seeking publication needs an agent. Amy L. Bernstein (Jane Friedman) shares The Case For Pursuing A Traditional Publishing Deal Without An Agent, tapping into the changing publishing landscape and the changing roles of those who participate in it.


LEAN INTO SELF-CARE AFTER THE SALE.


No matter which publication path you choose, there often is a feeling of blah-ness after finally reaching that done point. And this is totally normal.


Some of the most ambitious people prefer the process to the outcome. And this is because the process can be enjoyed over and over, iterated, improved upon. But the outcome is a snapshot in time, an end, a single data point that glosses over all the hard work leading up to that point. (Remember earlier when I suggested you get your dopamine fix from your process rather than the hoped-for or expected result?)


If you wait for the big dopamine hit of finishing, the resulting dopamine crash will be big, too. Completing a project often leaves folks feeling like deflated balloons. Sentiments like, “Was that it?” or “What now?” often follow big achievements.


Rachael Herron shares, in her video, How To Survive The Post-Publishing Crash With Sarah-Jane Collins. Rachael and Sarah-Jane discuss the feeling of weirdness that comes at the end of a book, how creating a community around your writing helps support you in getting through that crash period, and how self-care and being kind to yourself can help make the blah feel less blah.


 

Maria Korolov at MetaStellar Magazine collects more than 100 links each week, far more advice than I can possibly share in a single article, so be sure to check out the overflow at MetaStellar if you need something I didn’t include.


Have thoughts on this week’s curated advice? Lay it on me:


What questions do you have?

What resonated with you?

And what was missing?


Leave a comment below, and let me know how we can help you meet your writing goals.


Happy writing!


<3 Fal

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